NASHVILLE, Tenn – Kyle Larson hears the same things and reads the same things that you all do. He knows his name is being mentioned as a potential replacement at Hendrick Motorsports for when Jimmie Johnson retires after the 2020 NASCAR Cup Series season.
That honestly flatters Larson. I mean, who wouldn’t want to race for HMS? Johnson, has won 83 races and a record tying seven championships in that ride.
“I haven’t really thought too much about (past 2020),” Larson said Wednesday during his media availability in downtown Nashville, the site of this year’s awards banquet. “Obviously, I’ve been reading everything everybody else has too. It’s cool to see your name in the mix for stuff like that, but we also have to focus on the on-track performance next year.
“Obviously I’m a free agent, I guess, at the end of the year. I guess I’m excited just to hear what people have to say.
Larson, does say that he enjoys where he’s at with Chip Ganassi Racing and that he would be equally as happy to remain with the organization and get a contract extension too. He feels a sense of loyalty to CGR since they gave him his first opportunity in the big leagues.
“I enjoy what I’m doing with Chip (Ganassi) right now,” Larson continued. “If I do end up with Chip I’ll be perfectly happy with that. He gave me my first shot. I’ve got a great relationship with him and the team. More than anything, I just look forward to racing race cars.”
But, one tidbit that will go into his next contract is — dirt racing.
It’s no secret, Larson is a dirt racer at heart. If he could make millions racing Sprint Cars and World of Outlaws, he’d do that full time. That’s where his passion is. Despite being a NASCAR driver, he’s not willing to give that up. While everyone has hobbies from golfing to bowling to fishing or hunting, etc, Larson’s is dirt racing. He’s got a good reason too — he’s good at it.
Ganassi, allows Larson to do that which is why the California native says that CGR definitely has an advantage over other teams in terms of contract negotiations. Right now, Ganassi allows Larson to race up to 25 dirt races in a single season with the only stipulation is that he can’t race a sprint car or midget 24 hours prior to a NASCAR race.
“Wherever I end up, that is going to be priority for me is still being able to race quite a bit on dirt tracks,” Larson said. “I think teams understand that is what I love. We’ll see. I think Chip (Ganassi) definitely continuing to let me run and then also letting me run more than I have in the last few years has been awesome.”
With Hendrick Motorsports, they may not be too keen to allow Larson to race on dirt. Rick Hendrick allowed Kasey Kahne to do so until those privileges were revoked following a crash that Kahne was involved in. You don’t see very many HMS drivers currently or in the past, race many events outside of Cup races. That could be a problem for Larson as Ganassi will allow him to race on dirt.
Also, Larson is coming off of a career year. While he didn’t win more than once, he did finish a career best sixth in the points and really ended 2019 in stride. Also, he feels like he owes Ganassi for recognizing him when no one else did.
“I want to do the best job I can while I’m with Chip and if I continue to be with Chip,” Larson said. “He took me from nobody, nobody ever heard of me or even when they started to hear about me wouldn’t give me a shot. I”m very loyal and thankful for that. I would love to be with Chip for the rest of my career if I could.”